This time, there would be no collapse. Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law Jr. made sure of it.
Just two-and-a-half days after a disappointing loss to Minnesota, the Wildcats, led by their long, athletic wings, went into Pinnacle Bank Arena and beat the upstart Cornhuskers 74-66 in front of a lively Big Red crowd.
There was certainly the opportunity for collapse, though. The hosts, down 33-23, ran off 14 straight points, capped by a buzzer-beating three from Tai Webster, to take a 37-33 lead into the break. It was eerily reminiscent of the Gophers’ run at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday that had turned a 47-40 deficit into a 50-47 lead. Turnovers, a hot streak and some defensive breakdowns all contributed in both rallies.
“We had to regroup,” Chris Collins said. “We just had to regroup. We didn’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. You gotta move forward.”
The Wildcats may have hoped that the halftime break would cool off the hosts, but that wasn’t the case; they extended the lead to seven points twice, the last instance being with 16:14 left after Nebraska big man Michael Jacobson splashed home a long jumper. If the Wildcats were going to make a comeback, it would be on the back of their own players. More specifically, it would be on the backs of their superstars.
In the crucial stretch of the game, with Northwestern needing to answer the extended 21-4 run, a Gavin Skelly three and a pair of Bryant McIntosh free throws nibbled the lead to five. Then Law hit a three to cut it to two points, 47-45. On the following possession, Lindsey knocked down a three to give the visitors their first lead since there were 25 seconds left in the first half. A deep two from Lindsey knotted the game at 50, answering a Jack McVeigh triple. Then, another jumper from Lindsey gave the Wildcats a lead they wouldn’t relinquish which a Law three on the following possession extended it to six.
From that 16:14 mark, when the Wildcats faced their latest, biggest deficit, to the end of the game, Lindsey and Law combined for 21 of the team’s 37 points.
But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Lindsey started slowly, scoring just four points and missing all three of his shots behind the arc in the first half. When the run came, he might have disappeared for the remaining 20 minutes. Instead, he played one of his best halves as a Wildcat. He shot with confidence from deep. He scored in the post. He knocked down all five of his second-half free throws.
Then there was Law, whose concise shooting motion has had its peaks and valleys in terms of results, knocking down five of his six three-point attempts. He also contributed five rebounds. After his team had been out-rebounded 19-13 in the first half, Law crashed the boards hard, gathering all four of his defensive rebounds in the latter portion of the game. He also had a huge tip-out on a loose ball to give NU an extra possession late in the game that resulted in a Dererk Pardon free throw.
The redshirt sophomore also was fantastic on defense once again, using his length and quickness to disrupt Glynn Watson Jr. all afternoon. The shifty sophomore guard, coming off a career-high 34 points in his team’s double-overtime win against Iowa, went just 2-of-11 and missed all four of his three-point attempts.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Collins said. “It was them. Our guys dug down and did it. It was nothing I did. It was their will, it was their toughness, and I’m really proud of our guys today.”
Northwestern didn’t have a response on Thursday. Led to its two best athletes, it did on Sunday in Lincoln. And thanks to that duo, the Wildcats emerged with a crucial victory.